Polly Gipson, Ph.D., named 2011 Todd Ouida Scholar

Polly Gipson, Ph.D., a research investigator in the Department of Psychiatry, a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in children and adolescents, and a Depression Center member, has been named the 2011 recipient of the Todd Ouida Clinical Scholar Award. Established by the Depression Center in 2002, the awards are designed to further the work of outstanding young researchers working in childhood anxiety and depression.

Dr. Gipson’s effort is currently split between responsibilities as a research investigator in the Department of Psychiatry under the mentorship of Cheryl King, Ph.D.,  and as supervising faculty at the University Center for the Child and the Family. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a specialization in children and adolescents at DePaul University and obtained advanced training as a postdoctoral fellow in clinical child and adolescent psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School. She completed a clinical internship specialized in pediatric and clinical psychology at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. She received an M.A. in applied psychology at Columbia University, and her B.A. in psychology at Baylor University.

Dr. Gipson has shown a strong commitment to underserved populations across her research and clinical activities. Her overarching goal is to develop a research program in the area of community-based preventive interventions for ethnic minority and low-income adolescents at risk for suicide. The Todd Ouida Clinical Scholar Award will assist Dr. Gipson with her primary aim to collaboratively design and test a community-based pilot feasibility study for this population. Research indicates that ethnic minority youth and their families at risk for suicide are less likely to access traditional mental health services.

Presently, Dr. Gipson is the Project Coordinator for a 5-year effectiveness trial, “Links to Enhancing Teens’ Connectedness (LET’s CONNECT),” awarded to Dr. King by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. LET’S CONNECT is a suicide preventive intervention for youth between the ages of 12 to 15 years old who have never exhibited suicidal behaviors, but are at risk for suicide due to low levels of interpersonal connectedness or peer victimization in the form of bullying, as either the bully or bully victim.  Teens are recruited for an urban general emergency department in Flint, Michigan, and those selected to the randomized intervention will nominate a “natural” (family member of fictive kin) mentor and will be assigned a “community” mentor, who is recruited and trained by the research program. Both mentors will work in concert with the youth to help him/her become more involved in Flint-based community activities/organizations over a 16-month period. As project coordinator, she will fulfill a variety of duties that span from the lead facilitator of the university/community collaboration, to delivery of the community mentor trainings, to administrative and risk management tasks.

Dr. Gipson is also conducting a secondary data analysis of children/adolescents psychiatrically hospitalized over the past 18+ months at the University of Michigan Hospital, Child and Adolescent Unit. She will serve as the lead author of a descriptive study comparing 8-12 year old children to 13-17 year old adolescents to investigate developmental considerations for suicidal behaviors. She is also a co-investigator for a study examining the predictive validity of the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (Posner et al., 2007) administered to all children/adolescents seeking psychiatric emergency services at initial and recurring admissions onto the Unit. Additionally, Dr. Gipson will serve as the lead author on a satellite study, Teens Options for Change, an intervention development project for underserved adolescents at elevated risk for suicidal behaviors, for which she was an intervention specialist as a postdoc under Dr. King.

On a personal note, Dr. Gipson was born and raised in a suburb outside of Dallas, Texas. She is the youngest of three girls. Her mother, with whom she had a close relationship, unexpectedly passed away in January. Dr. Gipson feels immense gratitude from receiving an award in which honor is bestowed upon the tragic loss of a significant loved one. She also hopes to honor her mother’s legacy in a meaningful way.